HARD-PRESSED shoppers are enjoying bumper discounts in the biggest cut-price Christmas for 30 years.
High Street chains including Debenhams and PC World are reducing the price of goods by as much as 50 per cent in an effort to attract customers.
The discounts come as high unemployment and rising food and fuel bills mean many families are worried about the cost of the festive season. But city centres across the country were packed over the last weekend with people taking advantage of the bargains.
Part of Oxford Street in London was closed to traffic last Saturday and Sunday over safety fears as shoppers crammed the pavements.
Birmingham’s Bull Ring was also packed with gift hunters as many admitted they were slashing their budgets this year.
All major retailers have been running promotions with M&S offering 25 per cent off all women’s knitwear and coats.
A spokeswoman for M&S said: “We know that people have limited budgets this year so we have lots of offers to tempt our customers in the run-up to Christmas.”
M&S is joined by House of Fraser, Gap, French Connection, PC World and Currys, which are all offering major discounts on their goods.
Debenhams has cut its prices by 50 per cent on selected items, including women’s dresses, as the office Christmas party season begins.
Business analysts BDO said high street fashion sales dropped 1 per cent and non-fashion slumped 3.1 per cent, with homewares down by 2.6 per cent in November. Mothercare, HMV, Dixons Retail and Argos all reporting tough conditions.
Only John Lewis bucked the downward trend, recording a 9.6 per cent increase in trade in the week to December 3.
Gary Grant, managing director of The Entertainer, the UK’s biggest independent toy retailer, said sales were more than two per cent lower than last year.
But he said that in this year’s pre-Christmas sales, stores were awash with tempting bargains.
“This year is the most discounted Christmas I’ve known in 30 years,” Mr Grant added. “Lots of people are selling toys at or below cost price.”
Store groups such as HMV, Game and Dixons make the bulk of their profits during December as people treat themselves and loved ones to electrical goods.
“Happy Christmas Shopping and lets hope we all get some bargains says" Greengates Builders Merchants Accrington, Lancashire.